For example, this was my reaction to a paragraph defending charter schools from the threat of regulation. The passage, not surprisingly, occurs in a Michelle Rhee hagiography that appeared in the New Republic.
This post by Joseph got me thinking. Charter schools are private contractors providing services that were previously provided by the government. Any statement that's true about charter schools should still be true if you substitute in the phrase "some private contractors."As noted in this Monkey Cage post, the charter school systems in the states that most pushed deregulation (Michigan and Florida) have devolved a writhing mass of scandals, particularly involving for-profit schools. Things are arguably worse in Sweden where the entire country fully embraced the charter and market forces model.
But if you actually make the substitution, you often end up with statements the author would never think of making. Statements like this:
But Mead says ... she’s seen Gray hint that he’d like to more tightly regulate [private contractors]. “We have a law that gives a tremendous amount of autonomy to the [private contractors] but enables them to implement programs that can be effective. If you try to put more regulation on that, if can dissuade people from [privatizing],” Mead says.Would Seyward Darby normally describe a push for tighter regulation of private contractors as "disappointing"? Would the New Republic normally endorse a candidate because he was against stricter regulation of private contractors? Would everyone take a moment and see if Rod Serling is taking a smoke break in the vicinity?
I strongly believe that there is a place for charter schools in our system, but those schools have to meet exactly the same criteria as other contractors. Two of those criteria are transparency and openness to regulation, and given recent history, it's safe to say that some charter schools are failing these tests.
In 2010, reformers loved Sweden:
Matthew Yglesias again steps up to defend the honor of charter schools with a post on Anders Böhlmark and Mikael Lindahl's paper “Does School Privatization Improve Educational Achievement? Evidence from Sweden’s Voucher Reform” (PDF) from which he concludes:To see just how badly this turned out, take a look at Ray Fisman's excellent piece in Slate.
In effect, Swedish practice is like what exists in American states (Arizona, for example) with lots of charter schools and it’s quite similar to what the Obama administration (and I) are pushing. The big difference is that for-profit operators are allowed to run schools in Sweden, which I’d be for allowing.There is, however, an asterisk next to the name of the paper. The footnote is easy to miss (you have to click on the 'More>>' button to find it), but it's worth the effort. It reads:
* Their answer? It does in the short-term, but the gains fade. All else being equal I favor more choice, so I’d regard the reform as a good thing but I assume the architects of the reform were hoping for something more.